Cycling

December Catch-up… Cold v Hot

Winter is well and truly here. Yesterday was the first cycle to work which I would describe as numbingly cold. The kind of cold that actually hurts. I am well wrapped up and have four thin layers to keep me warm, but when I arrived at work I just had to spend a few minutes defrosting, a task which is not helped by the fact that the school heating system doesn’t kick in until about an hour after I arrive (shouldn’t that tell me something about the time I arrive – I’m there before even the caretakers!). As I cycle the frost bitten roads of the Oxfordshire countryside, my mind does wander to next summer and cycling through the heat of continental Europe. I forget of course that the heat I will encounter will sometimes be as debilitating as the cold of an early morning in England in winter.
Last week I had to encounter a few technical difficulties with the bike. Two weeks ago I had a puncture – these things happen – and I have been lucky that in the past ten months of riding the Trek that I haven’t had one, even during the summer when cycling from Berwick to Derby. So when it did happen, it was a case of mild irritation (mainly as I was being observed teaching on that day and really needed to get to work asap!), get on the train and spend an hour or so mending it in the evening (with the frustrating caveat that flats – the type of accommodation that is, not a euphemism for a collapsed inner tube – were never designed to make any kind of mechanical maintenance easy: my entrance hall carpet now has an attractive black dot pattern courtesy of the oil secreted during the work). Using one of the spare inner tubes that I had bought prior to the summer cycle, I did think that after having changed the old inner tube, the tyre itself looked a bit bloated. I put this down to having a slightly wider tyre on the back wheel being that the front: when it was changed in September, AW Cycles didn’t have any exact replacements. Off to work the following day and I thought little more of it. Seven days later, I woke up to another flat tyre. The same wheel. A bit more grumpy this time as getting on the train is a bit of a pain when you have to do it more than once in a while. After having acquired the confidence however to change the inner tube relatively quickly from the previous week, I decided to do it there and then before cycling to work. Fantastic – it only took a few minutes. But…. Pffffff….. The tyre suddenly deflated with a depressing sigh. So did I. Beginning to write off my prospects of cycling to work again, I started to change the tyre again (using my last spare inner tube). Once pumped up, there was clearly a problem with the size of either the tyre or the inner tube as there was an indentation around the valve area. But the bike was functioning so I could at least call into work with my excuses and take it to the professionals at AW Cycles. Which is what happened and there was indeed a mismatch in the sizes of tyre and inner tube.
The upside of all this is that I discovered the upstairs showroom of AW Cycles. Clearly bike shops are best visited when no one else is there apart from you and the staff. Chatting to the guy who works on the counter (who I feel as though I know pretty well after all my visits over the last year or so), I asked they sold Bianchi bikes. I didn’t think they did as downstairs is all Trek and Giant. “Upstairs” he said, so as my bike was in the workshop being given the inner tube treatment and a quick brake check, I wandered around the upper sanctum of the shop. Brushed chrome, carbon fibre, sleek design… there are all there. As was a whole host of Bianchi bikes. You will remember that I had spotted a potential bike for next summer at the Cycle Show a couple of months ago. I didn’t quite spot that model, but clearly it wouldn’t be too difficult to source. A replacement bike is, I feel, on the cards for April 2010. Watch this space…

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